If you've ever tucked into a novelty-shaped bowl of neon-colored ice cream beads—maybe at a zoo, or a Chuck E. Cheese, or some amusement park—and felt like, just for a minute, that all was right with the world, then you are definitely the target audience for the brand-new Dippin' Dots flagship store now open in the Flatiron District.
As the shop's owner and operator Neil Hershman told me during a preview of the place, "When I first had the idea of bringing Dippin’ Dots to NYC, I wasn’t thinking about the business, I was just craving Dippin’ Dots! One of the things that is so unique about [them] is that they are almost always tied to memories and experiences. Most people I know can remember the first time they had Dippin’ Dots."
Hershman, who is 26 years old and grew up in Westchester, also owns five 16 Handles frozen yogurt franchises, but his heart, apparently, will always belong to ice cream, even in flash-frozen beaded form.
"If you’re supposed to love what you do, then I’m in the right business," he said. "I grew up in a family where ice cream came before dinner. When other people want to celebrate with a champagne toast, I’d prefer to celebrate with cookies and cream and rainbow sprinkles."
Located on 23rd Street at the terminus of Madison Avenue, the kiosk-sized storefront inescapably feels like a creature of the shopping mall, sitting as it does at ground level of a sterile condo complex, and cursed with cheesy chain-store signage. The one bright spot, decor-wise? The eight-foot high sticker of Frozeti the Yeti that fills the front window, I hadn't heard of this cartoon mascot before my visit, but I must say I like his enthusiasm. In an unexpected twist to all of this, Hershman is heading to actual Yeti country this week to climb Mt. Everest. Wild!
So are Dippin' Dots any good, or is this just a one-and-done nostalgia kick sort of spot? I don't have much prior experience with the stuff--I have a vague memory of eating it once from a mini plastic Yankees hat at the Stadium years ago?--and based on the samples I had last week it was more like eating a bland candy than ice cream, so I am in no rush to go back. But nostalgia is a hell of a drug, so your taste buds may react differently. I will say the stuff is shockingly cold — Hershman tells me it's flash frozen at -320 degrees and, based on the way it felt hitting my back teeth, I believe him.
In addition to the cryogenic treats, the flagship also sells bags of Doc Popcorn, in flavors such as Hoppin' Jalapeno and, my selection, Cheesy Cheddar, which was fine. Doc Popcorn, which was acquired by Dippin' Dots Franchising LLC in 2014, also has a costumed mascot, named Poppa' Kernel, and Hershman is very excited about this part of the business. "The popcorn is scary addicting – it’s that good – and it’s freshly made all day," he said. "I really think Doc Popcorn will be a home run, and while you might first come for the Dippin’ Dots, you will come back for the popcorn!"
My suggestion if you go: get the special Dippin' Dot sundae, which is loaded with sticky Caramel Bliss Doc Popcorn that gives a necessary textural counterpoint to the Dots. There are also Slush Puppies available if that's more your thing.
Dippin' Dots and Doc Popcorn is located at One Madison Avenue on 23rd Street, and is currently open daily from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. (@dippindotsnyc)